Members Appointed To New Planning, Zoning Board

The Ellicott Town Board appointed new members to a planning/zoning board during a special meeting Thursday.

Town Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin recommended, and the board later approved, the following board members: Daniel Evans, five-year term as chair; Patricia Martonis, two-year term; Paul Volpe, one-year term; Phyllis Belin, one-year term as an alternate; John Merchant, one-year term as an alternate; Jean Holton, two-year term; and Ken Lyon, three-year term.

“I have to remember that all of them wanted to serve. I think they were all well qualified, some more so than others,” McLaughlin said.

At the last regular meeting, McLaughlin cited the consolidation of the two boards was much less about saving money as it was promoting new business creating a more effective work environment. At a regular meeting in January, McLaughlin noted that, in the past, towns have operated without a planning board and it is not required by the state where as a zoning board is mandated.

Mclaughlin interviewed potential board members for the new consolidated board. He said the primary questions and topics for potential board members involved the obligations of the new position. One of those obligations is communicating with David Rowe, town code enforcement officer.

In addition, McLaughlin said Town Attorney William Duncanson Jr. will be in attendance of the new board’s meetings to oversee the legality of decisions being made regarding zoning laws. He said the town board will have no influence of the decisions the new board will be making.

“We will not advise them how to vote, we will not advise them in which direction they should go,” he said.

McLaughlin also emphasized the dual obligations the new appointment will bring by consolidating the boards.

“All the things the planning board did will be taken care of by this board, it’s just that they will also have zoning (obligations),” he said.

All tasks and decision making will occur during one meeting, where as before the two boards held separate meetings.

The planning board was previously responsible for planning growth within the town of Ellicott, overseeing the site-plan reviewing process and recommending comprehensive plans and petitions for zoning changes. The zoning board was responsible for hearing appeals to the town related to zoning, and reviewing orders and decisions made by the building inspector. The new board will now be responsible for the duties of both boards.

The town supervisor also asked the interviewees to use “common sense” by avoiding “strong arming” businesses and instead emphasizing the idea that “the town of Ellicott is open for business.”

The first meeting for the planning/zoning board will be held at 7 p.m. on Feb. 14.

Town Councilman Patrick Tyler said in past years the board would ensure there was a mix of board members from various parts of the town.

“I think it’s a great plan that we’ve got members from each organization and each area so we’re covered pretty well,” Tyler said.